Lehigh Valley

Pennsylvania's first marijuana dispensary opens in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The first medical marijuana dispensary in Pennsylvania, Keystone Canna Remedies, had its grand opening in Bethlehem Wednesday.

"What we're kicking off is a series of educational workshops that start next week," said Victor Guadagnino, the company's Chief Business Development Officer. "Product or medicine will not be ready until mid-February." 

The marijuana sold will not be in traditional plant form, but contained in things like pills, oils and liquids.

Guadagnino's family founded the business.

"We come from a health care background," he told WFMZ. "We were confident in our health care history but we needed a cannabis expert to kind of round out a dispensary, a pharmacy."

That's where Bradley Carlson comes in, Keystone's Director of Pharmacy. 

"I would say that first and foremost my job as a pharmacist is to protect people from drugs," he said. 

Patients need to register with the state, get a prescription from a doctor, and then come to dispensaries like this one to get marijuana. 

"As a pharmacist we'll help direct them toward something that would make sense toward their background, their information, their medications and prior experience," he said. 

People with 17 different conditions, ranging from cancer to chronic pain, are eligible.

Former Philadelphia Flyer Riley Cote is an advocate.

"For chronic pain, cannabis is the go to. It's a game changer," he said. 

Cote retired from playing hockey at 28 after a rough career.

He initially started self-medicating with alcohol and taking opiates, but says marijuana is a far healthier way to deal with pain. 

"I wake up in the morning, I don't feel like I'm 60. I might feel like I'm 40," he said. 

Still, battles continue over the drug's role in America, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently allowing federal prosecutors in states where pot is legal to crack down on the drug if they wish.

At the opening Wednesday, acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said the Wolf Administration will protect the state's legal marijuana businesses and users.

"Despite backward moves from Washington, Governor Wolf has vowed to protect your right to [have] access to this medication in Pennsylvania," said Levine, who is also a doctor.

Keystone Canna Remedies, located on Stefko Boulevard, plans to open another dispensary in Pennsylvania later this year.   

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